I have a confession to make – to all the mums in playgrounds, parks and soft play centres across Sydney. To the mum’s whose child is nursing a sore arm because some kid ran by them on the way up to the slippery dip and in his exuberance bumped a more cautious child to the ground.
That was probably my son.
He’s not a bad kid – he’s a wonderful child actually, surprisingly gentle and sweet in his quiet moments, which I admit are few and far between. He can be so caring – when I injured my calf at netball he brought me ice from the freezer every few minutes. Of course, I was freezing all weekend, but still.
Last week when his dad had a bad day at work he gave him his favourite fire truck as a present to cheer him up. It’s still on his dad’s bedside table he won’t let anyone, (read; his curious little sister), touch it. At the tender age of three, he gave away his favourite toy without the expectation of receiving it back.
But he is full of unbridled, (and sometimes uncontrolled) energy. He’s the kid that other mums describe as ‘spirited’ or ‘active’ to me and God knows what to each other. I often feel the need to apologise for him out of some silly need not to offend other parents. There’s a fine line between standard playground antics and the exuberance of a bigger and stronger than average 3 year old determined to be the first down the slide. Usually backwards and with a bump at the end, and always followed by another gleeful dash up the slide from the bottom, meeting oncoming children on their way down with another collision. (Again – I’m really sorry).
So rather than hover over him whenever he is around other children and wait for him to cause the inevitable ruckus, let me apologise now to all the mothers of the well-behaved children that don’t climb slides backwards and tackle other kids while playing hide and seek. For all the future bumps, accidental elbows and general shenanigans. We’re working on it every day, but there is a part of my little boy that just doesn’t think first. It’s the same part that sees a character in every child he meets that would perfectly suit a game he hasn’t yet invented. And while he needs to learn restraint I don’t want to destroy the little devil in him entirely because it’s part of who he is at his very core – its part of his inventiveness and creativity, his surprising vulnerability, utter glee for life and his enthusiasm for…well, everything.
It’s the reason he wakes up at 5 am and makes his Dad and I breakfast in bed. Apple cake – made from a whole apple, butter and vegemite mixed together in a mixing bowl. It’s the same joy de vivre that joins us in the third person on our walks – a personified, larger than life character that sees a driveway with a newspaper and imagines a river full of crocodiles to cross. We’ve climbed mountains together, waded through toxic swamps, found ancient dinosaur bones and built museums to house them. We’ve even seen a rhinoceros on safari, (again, apologies to the lady/rhino quietly minding her own business in her front garden. In truth, you look nothing like a rhino).
He’s no ordinary three year old -none of them are ordinary, after all- and being his parent is a delightful daily challenge. Well, mostly delightful, always challenging. How do I take his boundless energy and turn it into harnessed energy, with distinct boundaries? It’s a very small difference, but an important one.
One day my little boy will create and follow his own dreams. I can but imagine they will be spectacular and sky high, and he will follow them with complete dedication and immeasurable vigour. Seriously, If they could bottle his vigour, there would be no energy crisis. In the meantime I guide him as best I can without damaging his fragile but all consuming spirit. And just as I’m sure you do with your slightly less ferociously energetic child I am doing the best I can to make him the best person I can…and sometimes I get to watch in awe as he takes me a long for the ride of my life.